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The relationship between Japanmarker and the United States of Americamarker is one of very close economic and military cooperation coupled with extensive cultural exchange.

Country comparison

Japan United States
Population 127,590,000 307,721,000
Area 377,873 km2 (145,883 sq mi) 9,826,630 km2 (3,794,066 sq mi)
Population Density 337.6/km2 (874.4/sq mi) 31/km2 (80/sq mi)
Capital Tokyomarker Washington, D.C.marker
Largest City Tokyomarker – 12,790,000 (32,450,000 Metro) New York Citymarker – 8,363,710 (19,006,798 Metro)
Government Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy Federal presidential constitutional republic
Official languages Japanese (de facto) English (de facto)
Main religions 83.9% Shinto, 71.4% Buddhism, 2% Christianity, 0.6% Other (Figures exceed 100% since the people of Japan widely practice Shinto and Buddhism jointly) 75% Christianity, 20% non-Religious, 2% Judaism, 1% Buddhism, 1% Islam
Ethnic groups 98.5% Japanese, 0.6% Other, 0.5% Korean, 0.4% Chinese 74% White American, 14.8% Hispanic and Latino Americans (of any race), 13.4% African American, 6.5% Some other race, 4.4% Asian American, 2.0% Two or more races, 0.68% American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.14% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
GDP (nominal) US$4.923 trillion ($38,559 per capita) US$14.441 trillion ($47,440 per capita)
Military expenditures $48.86 billion (FY 2008) $663.7 billion (FY 2010)

Historical background

The earliest interactions

The indirect exchange of trade goods from North America to Japan occurred during the Nanban trade period of the early 17th century; there was no direct contact between Japan and the European colonies which would later become the United States, as the trade was always dealt with through European proxies.

Several Spanish ships had established contact with Japan after setting sail from Nueva España (present-day Mexicomarker), so that Japanese sailors such as Christopher and Cosmas are known to have reached the American continent aboard Spanish galleons as early as 1587. In 1610, Tanaka Shosuke traveled to the Americas with 20 other Japanese representatives aboard a Japanese-made ship, the San Buena Ventura. In 1611, the Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino reciprocated Tanaka's visit and set out to establish formal relations from Californiamarker - today, a U.S. state.

When the Tokugawa shogunate enacted the sakoku laws in 1650, almost all foreign trade ended in Japan; only the Dutchmarker, the Ryūkyūansmarker, the Koreansmarker, and the Chinesemarker were allowed into the country, and only on a limited scale. When the United States achieved its independence in the late 18th century, there was no interaction between the two countries. Throughout the early 19th century, the powers of Europe - as well as the United States - made attempts to open Japan up to renewed foreign relations.

Early American expeditions to Japan

  • In 1791, two American ships commanded by the American explorer Kendrick stopped for 11 days on Kii Oshimamarker island, south of the Kii Peninsulamarker. He is the first known American to have visited Japan. He apparently planted an American flag and claimed the islands, although accounts of his visit in Japan are nonexistent.

  • From 1797 to 1809, several American ships traded in Nagasaki under the Dutchmarker flag, upon the request of the Dutch; they were unable to send their own ships due to their conflict against Britainmarker during the Napoleonic Wars.

  • In 1837, Charles W. King, an American businessman in Canton, saw an opportunity to open trade by trying to return to Japan three Japanese sailors (among them, Otokichi) that'd been shipwrecked a few years before on the coast of Oregonmarker. He went to the Uraga Channelmarker with Morrison, an unarmed American merchant ship. The ship was fired upon several times, and it eventually had to sail back unsuccessfully.

  • In 1846, Commander James Biddle, sent by the United States Government to open trade, anchored himself in Tokyo Baymarker with two ships, one of which was armed with seventy-two cannons. Regardless, his demands for a trade agreement remained unsuccessful.

  • In 1848, Captain James Glynn sailed to Nagasaki, which lead to the first successful negotiation by an American with sakoku Japan. Upon his return to North America, Glynn recommended to the U.S. Congress that any negotiations to open up Japan should be backed up by a demonstration of force; this paved the way for the later expedition of Commodore Matthew Perry.

Commodore Matthew Perry

The first visit, 1852 to 1853

Commodore Perry's fleet for his second visit to Japan in 1854.
In 1852, Perry embarked from Norfolkmarker, Virginiamarker, for Japanmarker, in command of a squadron that would negotiate a Japanese trade treaty. Aboard a black-hulled steam frigate, he ported Mississippi, Plymouth, Saratoga, and Susquehanna at Uraga Harbor near Edo (present-day Tokyomarker) on July 8, 1853, and he was met by representatives of the Tokugawa Shogunate. They told him to proceed to Nagasaki, where the sakoku laws allowed limited trade by the Dutchmarker. Perry refused to leave, and he demanded permission to present a letter from President Millard Fillmore, threatening force if he was denied. Japan had shunned modern technology for centuries, and the Japanese military wouldn't be able to resist Perry's ships; these "Black Ships" would later become a symbol of threatening Western technology and colonialism in Japan.

The Japanese government had to accept Perry's coming ashore to avoid a naval bombardment. Perry proceeded ashore at Kurihama (near present-day Yokosuka) on July 14, 1853, presented the letter to the delegates present, and his squadron of ships left for the Chinese coast. Perry promised to return later for a reply.

The second visit, 1854

Perry returned in March 1854 with twice as many ships, finding that the delegates had prepared a treaty embodying virtually all the demands in Fillmore's letter. Perry signed the Convention of Kanagawa on March 31, 1854, and departed, mistakenly believing that the agreement had been made with imperial representatives.

Japanese embassy to the United States

Seven years later, the Shogun sent Kanrin Maru on a mission to the United States; it was his intention to show the world that Japan had mastered Western navigation techniques and ship technologies. On the January 19, 1860, Kanrin Maru left the Uraga Channelmarker for San Franciscomarker. The delegation included Katsu Kaishu, as ship captain; John Manjiro; and Fukuzawa Yukichi. The Embassy went on to Washingtonmarker via Panama, on American vessels.

The official objective of the mission was to send the first Japanese embassy to the United States ever, and also to ratify the new Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation between the two governments. The delegates also tried to revise some of the unequal clauses in Perry's treaties; they were unsuccessful. After the Meiji Restoration of 1867, the United Statesmarker helped Japanmarker in its modernization of its economy and of its military. The new constitution of Japan was partly influenced by the United States Constitution.

Meiji Era (Reconstruction/ Gilded Age)

Taisho Era (World War I and Roaring 20s)

Early Showa Era (late Roaring 20s and the Great Depression)

Relations between Japan and the United States became increasingly tense after the Mukden Incident and subsequent Japanese military attempts at colonization, which included such atrocities as the Nanking Massacre in China. The United States had a powerful navy in the Pacific, and it was already friendly with some of the colonial powers based in Europe, including the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (although not formally allied). The United States, along with Australia, the United Kingdom, and the Dutch government in exile, boycotted Japan via a trade embargo. Japan thus resorted to military force to get the raw materials it needed.

World War II

The Japanese military carried out a pre-emptive strikemarker on the American navy at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, starting a four year period of enmity between the United States and Japan. By producing materials, island-hopping, and heavy bombing of Japanese cities and conquering Japanese-held areas (and after two uses of nuclear weapons and Russia's official entry into war against Japan), the United States and its allies forced Japan to surrender, thus ending the hostilities.

The Pacific War lasted until after the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

Political relations

Postwar era

Post-war Occupation period

At the end of the Second World War, Japan was occupied by the Allied Powers, led by the United States with contributions from Australia, India, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. This was the first time since the unification of Japan that the island nation had been occupied by a foreign power. The San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed on September 8, 1951, marked the end of the Allied occupation, and when it went into effect on April 28, 1952, Japan was once again an independent state, and an ally of the United States.

1950s: After the occupation

In the years after World War II, Japan's relations with the United States were placed on an equal footing for the first time at the end of the occupation by the Allied forces in April 1952. This equality, the legal basis of which was laid down in the peace treaty signed by forty-eight Allied nations and Japan, was initially largely nominal, because in the early postoccupation period Japan required direct United States economic assistance. A favorable Japanese balance of payments with the United States was achieved in 1954, mainly as a result of United States military and aid spending in Japan.

The Japanese people's feeling of dependence lessened gradually as the disastrous results of World War II subsided into the background and trade with the United States expanded. Self-confidence grew as the country applied its resources and organizational skill to regaining economic health. This situation gave rise to a general desire for greater independence from United States influence. During the 1950s and 1960s, this feeling was especially evident in the Japanese attitude toward United States military bases on the four main islands of Japan and in Okinawa Prefecture, occupying the southern two-thirds of the Ryukyu Islandsmarker.

The government had to balance left-wing pressure advocating dissociation from the United States allegedly 'against the realities' of the need for military protection. Recognizing the popular desire for the return of the Ryukyu Islands and the Bonin Islands (also known as the Ogasawara Islandsmarker), the United States as early as 1953 relinquished its control of the Amamimarker group of islands at the northern end of the Ryukyu Islands. But the United States made no commitment to return Okinawa, which was then under United States military administration for an indefinite period as provided in Article 3 of the peace treaty. Popular agitation culminated in a unanimous resolution adopted by the Diet in June 1956, calling for a return of Okinawa to Japan.

1960s: Military Alliance and return of territories

Bilateral talks on revising the 1952 security pact began in 1959, and the new Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security was signed in Washington on January 19, 1960. When the pact was submitted to the Diet for ratification on February 5, it became the subject of bitter debate over the Japan-United States relationship and the occasion for violence in an all-out effort by the leftist opposition to prevent its passage. It was finally approved by the House of Representatives on May 20. Japan Socialist Party deputies boycotted the lower house session and tried to prevent the LDP deputies from entering the chamber; they were forcibly removed by the police. Massive demonstrations and rioting by students and trade unions followed. These outbursts prevented a scheduled visit to Japan by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and precipitated the resignation of Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke, but not before the treaty was passed by default on June 19, when the House of Councillors failed to vote on the issue within the required thirty days after lower house approval.

Under the treaty, both parties assumed an obligation to assist each other in case of armed attack on territories under Japanese administration. (It was understood, however, that Japan could not come to the defense of the United States because it was constitutionally forbidden to send armed forces overseas (Article 9). In particular, the constitution forbids the maintenance of "land, sea, and air forces." It also expresses the Japanese people's renunciation of "the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes". Accordingly, the Japanese find it difficult to send their "self-defense" forces overseas, even for peace-keeping purposes.) The scope of the new treaty did not extend to the Ryukyu Islands, but an appended minute made clear that in case of an armed attack on the islands, both governments would consult and take appropriate action. Notes accompanying the treaty provided for prior consultation between the two governments before any major change occurred in the deployment of United States troops or equipment in Japan. Unlike the 1952 security pact, the new treaty provided for a ten-year term, after which it could be revoked upon one year's notice by either party. The treaty included general provisions on the further development of international cooperation and on improved future economic cooperation.

Both countries worked closely to fulfill the United States promise, under Article 3 of the peace treaty, to return all Japanese territories acquired by the United States in war. In June 1968, the United States returned the Bonin Islandsmarker (including Iwo Jimamarker) to Japanese administration control. In 1969, the Okinawa reversion issue and Japan's security ties with the United States became the focal points of partisan political campaigns. The situation calmed considerably when Prime Minister Sato Eisaku visited Washington in November 1969, and in a joint communiqué signed by him and President Richard M. Nixon, announced the United States agreement to return Okinawa to Japan in 1972. In June 1971, after eighteen months of negotiations, the two countries signed an agreement providing for the return of Okinawa to Japan in 1972.

The Japanese government's firm and voluntary endorsement of the security treaty and the settlement of the Okinawa reversion question meant that two major political issues in Japan-United States relations were eliminated. But new issues arose. In July 1971, the Japanese government was surprised by Nixon's dramatic announcement of his forthcoming visit to the People's Republic of China. Many Japanese were chagrined by the failure of the United States to consult in advance with Japan before making such a fundamental change in foreign policy. The following month, the government was again surprised to learn that, without prior consultation, the United States had imposed a 10 percent surcharge on imports, a decision certain to hinder Japan's exports to the United States. Relations between Tokyo and Washington were further strained by the monetary crisis involving the December 1971 revaluation of the Japanese yen.

These events of 1971 marked the beginning of a new stage in relations, a period of adjustment to a changing world situation that was not without episodes of strain in both political and economic spheres, although the basic relationship remained close. The political issues between the two countries were essentially security-related and derived from efforts by the United States to induce Japan to contribute more to its own defense and to regional security. The economic issues tended to stem from the ever-widening United States trade and payments deficits with Japan, which began in 1965 when Japan reversed its imbalance in trade with the United States and, for the first time, achieved an export surplus.

1970s: Indochina War and Middle-East crisis

The United States withdrawal from Indochina in 1975 and the end of the Vietnam War meant that the question of Japan's role in the security of East Asia and its contributions to its own defense became central topics in the dialogue between the two countries. United States dissatisfaction with Japanese defense efforts began to surface in 1975 when Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger publicly stigmatized Japan. The Japanese government, constrained by constitutional limitations and strongly pacifist public opinion, responded slowly to pressures for a more rapid buildup of its Self-Defense Forces (SDF). It steadily increased its budgetary outlays for those forces, however, and indicated its willingness to shoulder more of the cost of maintaining the United States military bases in Japan. In 1976 the United States and Japan formally established a subcommittee for defense cooperation, in the framework of a bilateral Security Consultative Committee provided for under the 1960 security treaty. This subcommittee, in turn, drew up new Guidelines for Japan-United States Defense Cooperation, under which military planners of the two countries have conducted studies relating to joint military action in the event of an armed attack on Japan.

On the economic front, Japan sought to ease trade frictions by agreeing to Orderly Marketing Arrangements, which limited exports on products whose influx into the United States was creating political problems. In 1977 an Orderly Marketing Arrangement limiting Japanese color television exports to the United States was signed, following the pattern of an earlier disposition of the textile problem. Steel exports to the United States were also curtailed, but the problems continued as disputes flared over United States restrictions on Japanese development of nuclear fuel- reprocessing facilities, Japanese restrictions on certain agricultural imports, such as beef and oranges, and liberalization of capital investment and government procurement within Japan.

In response to the call from its allies for a greater and more responsible role in the world, Japan developed what Prime Minister Ohira Masayoshi called a "comprehensive security and defense strategy to safeguard peace." Under this policy, Japan sought closer cooperation with the United States for a more reciprocal and autonomous basis on a global scale.

This policy was put to the test in November 1979, when radical Iranians seized the United States embassy in Tehran, taking sixty hostages. Japan reacted by condemning the action as a violation of international law. At the same time, Japanese trading firms and oil companies reportedly purchased Iranian oil that had become available when the United States banned oil imported from Iran. This action brought sharp criticism from the United States of Japanese government "insensitivity" for allowing the oil purchases and led to a Japanese apology and agreement to participate in sanctions against Iran in concert with other United States allies.

Following that incident, the Japanese government took greater care to support United States international policies designed to preserve stability and promote prosperity. Japan was prompt and effective in announcing and implementing sanctions against the Soviet Union following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. In 1981, in response to United States requests, it accepted greater responsibility for defense of seas around Japan, pledged greater support for United States forces in Japan, and persisted with a steady buildup of the SDF.

1980s: Rise of the falcons

A qualitatively new stage of Japan-United States cooperation in world affairs appeared to be reached in late 1982 with the election of Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone. Officials of the Ronald Reagan administration worked closely with their Japanese counterparts to develop a personal relationship between the two leaders based on their common security and international outlook. Nakasone reassured United States leaders of Japan's determination against the Soviet threat, closely coordinated policies with the United States toward such Asian trouble spots as the Korean Peninsula and Southeast Asia, and worked cooperatively with the United States in developing China policy. The Japanese government welcomed the increase of United States forces in Japan and the western Pacific, continued the steady buildup of the SDF, and positioned Japan firmly on the side of the United States against the threat of Soviet international expansion. Japan continued to cooperate closely with United States policy in these areas following Nakasone's term of office, although the political leadership scandals in Japan in the late 1980s (i.e. the Recruit scandal) made it difficult for newly elected President George H. W. Bush to establish the same kind of close personal ties that marked the Reagan years.

A specific example of Japan's close cooperation with the United States included its quick response to the United States' call for greater host nation support from Japan following the rapid realignment of Japan-United States currencies in the mid-1980s. The currency realignment resulted in a rapid rise of United States costs in Japan, which the Japanese government, upon United States request, was willing to offset. Another set of examples was provided by Japan's willingness to respond to United States requests for foreign assistance to countries considered of strategic importance to the West. During the 1980s, United States officials voiced appreciation for Japan's "strategic aid" to countries such as Pakistanmarker, Turkeymarker, Egyptmarker, and Jamaicamarker. Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki's pledges of support for East European and Middle Eastern countries in 1990 fit the pattern of Japan's willingness to share greater responsibility for world stability.

Despite complaints from some Japanese businesses and diplomats, the Japanese government remained in basic agreement with United States policy toward China and Indochina. The government held back from large-scale aid efforts until conditions in China and Indochina were seen as more compatible with Japanese and United States interests. Of course, there also were instances of limited Japanese cooperation. Japan's response to the United States decision to help to protect tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran–Iraq War (1980-88) was subject to mixed reviews. Some United States officials stressed the positive, noting that Japan was unable to send military forces because of constitutional reasons but compensated by supporting the construction of a navigation system in the Persian Gulf, providing greater host nation support for United States forces in Japan, and providing loans to Oman and Jordan. Japan's refusal to join even in a mine-sweeping effort in the Persian Gulf was an indication to some United States officials of Tokyo's unwillingness to cooperate with the United States in areas of sensitivity to Japanese leaders at home or abroad.

The main area of noncooperation with the United States in the 1980s was Japanese resistance to repeated United States efforts to get Japan to open its market more to foreign goods and to change other economic practices seen as adverse to United States economic interests. A common pattern was followed. The Japanese government was sensitive to political pressures from important domestic constituencies that would be hurt by greater openness. In general, these constituencies were of two types—those representing inefficient or "declining" producers, manufacturers, and distributors, who could not compete if faced with full foreign competition; and those up-and-coming industries that the Japanese government wished to protect from foreign competition until they could compete effectively on world markets. To deal with domestic pressures while trying to avoid a break with the United States, the Japanese government engaged in protracted negotiations. This tactic bought time for declining industries to restructure themselves and new industries to grow stronger. Agreements reached dealt with some aspects of the problems, but it was common for trade or economic issues to be dragged out in talks over several years, involving more than one market-opening agreement. Such agreements were sometimes vague and subject to conflicting interpretations in Japan and the United States.

Growing interdependence was accompanied by markedly changing circumstances at home and abroad that were widely seen to have created a crisis in Japan-United States relations in the late 1980s. United States government officials continued to emphasize the positive aspects of the relationship but warned that there was a need for "a new conceptual framework." The Wall Street Journal publicized a series of lengthy reports documenting changes in the relationship in the late 1980s and reviewing the considerable debate in Japan and the United States over whether a closely cooperative relationship was possible or appropriate for the 1990s. An authoritative review of popular and media opinion, published in 1990 by the Washington-based Commission on US-Japan Relations for the Twenty-first Century, was concerned with preserving a close Japan-United States relationship. It warned of a "new orthodoxy" of "suspicion, criticism and considerable self- justification," which it said was endangering the fabric of Japan- United States relations.

The relative economic power of Japan and the United States was undergoing sweeping change, especially in the 1980s. This change went well beyond the implications of the United States trade deficit with Japan, which had remained between US$40 billion and US$48 billion annually since the mid-1980s. The persisting United States trade and budget deficits of the early 1980s led to a series of decisions in the middle of the decade that brought a major realignment of the value of Japanese and United States currencies. The stronger Japanese currency gave Japan the ability to purchase more United States goods and to make important investments in the United States. By the late 1980s, Japan was the main international creditor.

Japan's growing investment in the United States—it was the second largest investor after Britain—led to complaints from some American constituencies. Moreover, Japanese industry seemed well positioned to use its economic power to invest in the high-technology products in which United States manufacturers were still leaders. The United States's ability to compete under these circumstances was seen by many Japanese and Americans as hampered by heavy personal, government, and business debt and a low savings rate.

In the late 1980s, the breakup of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe and the growing preoccupation of Soviet leaders with massive internal political and economic difficulties forced the Japanese and United States governments to reassess their longstanding alliance against the Soviet threat. Officials of both nations had tended to characterize the security alliance as the linchpin of the relationship, which should have priority over economic and other disputes. Some Japanese and United States officials and commentators continued to emphasize the common dangers to Japan- United States interests posed by the continued strong Soviet military presence in Asia. They stressed that until Moscow followed its moderation in Europe with major demobilization and reductions in its forces positioned against the United States and Japan in the Pacific, Washington and Tokyo needed to remain militarily prepared and vigilant.

Increasingly, however, other perceived benefits of close Japan- United States security ties were emphasized. The alliance was seen as deterring other potentially disruptive forces in East Asia, notably the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Koreamarker). Ironically, some United States officials noted that the alliance helped keep Japan's potential military power in check and under the supervision of the United States.

1990s: After the cold war

Japan-United States relations were more uncertain in the early 1990s than at any time since World War II. As long-standing military allies and increasingly interdependent economic partners, Japan and the United States cooperated closely to build a strong, multifaceted relationship based on democratic values and interests in world stability and development. Japan-United States relations improved a lot between 1970 and 1980, as the two societies and economies became increasingly intertwined. In 1990 their combined gross national product (GNP) totaled about one third of the world's GNP. Japan received about 11 percent of United States exports (a larger share than any other country except Canada), and the United States bought about 34 percent of Japan's exports. Japan had US$148 billion in direct investment in the United States in 1991, while the United States had more than US$17 billion invested in Japan. Some US$100 billion in United States government securities held by institutions in Japan helped finance much of the United States budget deficit. Economic exchanges were reinforced by a variety of scientific, technical, tourist, and other exchanges. Each society continued to see the other as its main ally in Asia and the Pacific. Certain developments in the late 1980s damaged bilateral relations. Nevertheless, public opinion surveys continued to reveal that substantial majorities of Japanese and Americans believed that the bilateral relationship was vital to both countries.

The post-Cold War environment strengthened the relative importance of economic prowess over military power as the major source of world influence in the early 1990s. This shift affected the perceived relative standing of Japan, the United States, and other powers. Increasingly, Japan was expected to shoulder international aid and economic responsibilities that in the past were discharged by the United States and other Western countries.

The declining Soviet threat, the rising power of the Japanese economy, increasingly close United States interaction (and related disputes) with Japan, and other factors led by 1990 to a decided shift in United States opinion about Japan and to less marked but nonetheless notable shifts in Japanese opinion. In the United States, this shift was reflected in questions about which was the more serious, the military threat from the Soviet Union or the economic challenge from Japan. In a series of polls in 1989 and 1990, most respondents considered the challenge from Japan the more serious. Similarly, poll data from early 1990 showed that most Japanese considered negative United States attitudes toward Japan a reflection of United States anger at "America's slipping economic position." Meanwhile, Japanese opinion was showing greater confidence in Japan's ability to handle its own affairs without constant reference—as in the past—to the United States. Japan's belief in United States reliability as a world leader also lessened.

In both countries, new or "revisionist" views of the Japan- United States relationship were promoted. In Japan some commentators argued that the United States was weak, dependent on Japan, and unable to come to terms with world economic competition. They urged Japan to strike out on a more independent course. In the United States, prominent commentators warned of a Japanese economic juggernaut, out of control of the Japanese government, which needed to be "contained" by the United States.

At the same time, it was easy to overstate the changes in opinion in both countries. The Japanese still considered the United States positively as their closest friend, the principal guardian of their external security, their most important economic partner and market, and the exemplar of a life-style that had much to offer—and much to envy. Moreover, the vast majority of Americans still viewed Japan positively, had high respect for Japanese accomplishments, and supported the United States defense commitment to Japan.

With the end of the Cold War and changing administrations in Japan and the United States, Japan's relations with the United States entered a period of uncertainty and friction. In late 1993, the successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round of the GATT negotiations and Japan's decision to allow some rice imports to make up for a reduced domestic crop provided a basis for further progress on trade issues, but the growing United States deficit in bilateral trade prompted Washington to demand that Tokyo set specific objectives for opening its markets to United States products. After fifteen months of sometimes contentious talks, on October 1, 1994, Japan and the United States concluded an agreement to open up three major Japanese markets to products from the United States. These were the Japanese insurance market and government purchases of telecommunications and medical equipment. The two sides failed to reach agreement on the import of American-made automobiles, automotive parts, and flat glass (used in automotive manufacturing and construction) to Japan but agreed to reach some resolution in thirty days.

In late May 1994, high-level negotiators from Japan and the United States, concerned that the trade frictions could jeopardize overall relations, reached an agreement to restart the framework talks at an early date. Despite the general failure of the framework talks, the two countries revealed in May that they would be engaging in joint high-technology research to develop ceramics used in high-density integrated circuits, composite carbon fiber materials used in manufacturing machinery, data collection using a crystal protein system, and technology to build environmentally friendly factories.

New Millennium: A stronger alliance

By the late 90's and beyond the US-Japan relationship had been improved and strengthened. The major cause of friction in the relationship, trade disputes, became less problematic as China displaced Japan as the greatest perceived economic threat to the U.S. Meanwhile, though in the immediate post-Cold War period the security alliance suffered from a lack of a defined threat, the emergence of North Korea as a belligerent rogue state and China's economic and military expansion provided a purpose to strengthen the relationship. While the foreign policy of the administration of President George W. Bush put a strain on the United States' international relations, the alliance with Japan has become stronger in the new millennium, as evidenced in the Deployment of Japanese troops to Iraq and the joint development of anti-missile defense systems. The notion that Japan is becoming the "Great Britain of the Pacific", or the key and pivotal ally of the U.S. in the region, is frequently alluded to in international studies, but the extent to which this is true is still the subject of academic debate.

In 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan came into power with a mandate calling for changes in the recently agreed security realignment plan and has opened a review into how the accord was reached, but United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the US Congress was unwilling to pay for any changes.

Economic Relations

Trade volume

The United States has been Japan's largest economic partner, taking 31.5 percent of its exports, supplying 22.3 percent of its imports, and accounting for 45.9 percent of its direct investment abroad in 1990. As of 2004, the United States takes up 22.7% of Japanese exports, and supplies 14% of its imports (the slack having been picked up by China, which now provides 20.7%).

Japan's imports from the United States included both raw materials and manufactured goods. United States agricultural products were a leading import in 1990 (US$8.5 billion as measured by United States export statistics), made up of meat (US$1.5 billion), fish (US$1.8 million), grains (US$2.4 billion), and soybeans (US$8.8 billion). Imports of manufactured goods were mainly in the category of machinery and transportation equipment, rather than consumer goods. In 1990 Japan imported US$11.1 billion of machinery from the United States, of which computers and computer parts (US$3.6 billion) formed the largest single component. In the category of transportation equipment, Japan imported US$3.3 billion of aircraft and parts (automobiles and parts accounted for only US$1.8 billion).

Japan's exports to the United States were almost entirely manufactured goods. Automobiles were by far the largest single category, amounting to US$21.5 billion in 1990, or 24 percent of total Japanese exports to the United States. Automotive parts accounted for another US$10.7 billion. Other major items were office machinery (including computers), which totaled US$8.6 billion in 1990, telecommunications equipment (US$4.1 billion) and power-generating machinery (US$451 million).

From the mid-1960s, the trade balance has been in Japan's favor. According to Japanese data, its surplus with the United States grew from US$380 million in 1970 to nearly US$48 billion in 1988, declining to approximately US$38 billion in 1990. United States data on the trade relationship (which differ slightly because each nation includes transportation costs on the import side but not the export side) also show a rapid deterioration of the imbalance in the 1980s, from a Japanese surplus of US$10 billion in 1980 to one of US$60 billion in 1987, with an improvement to one of US$37.7 billion in 1990.

Trade frictions

The general deterioration, and the very modest improvement in the trade balance after the yen rose in value after 1985, contributed greatly to strained economic relations. The United States had pressured Japan to open its markets since the early 1960s, but the intensity of the pressure increased through the 1970s and 1980s.

Tensions were exacerbated by issues specific to particular industries perhaps more than by the trade imbalance in general. Beginning with textiles in the 1950s, a number of Japanese exports to the United States were subject to opposition from United States industry. These complaints generally alleged unfair trading practices, such as dumping (selling at a lower cost than at home, or selling below the cost of production) and patent infringement. The result of negotiations was often Japan's agreement "voluntarily" to restrain exports to the United States. Such agreements applied to a number of products, including color television sets in the late 1970s and automobiles in the 1980s.

During the 1970s and 1980s, United States administrations had favored an issue-by-issue approach in negotiating such economic disputes with Japan. This approach ostensibly limited the areas of dispute. But it resulted in widespread negative publicity, at a time when changing economic and security circumstances were causing both countries to reevaluate the relationship. Notable outpourings of United States congressional and media rhetoric critical of Japan accompanied the disclosure in 1987 that Toshiba had illegally sold sophisticated machinery of United States origin to the Soviet Union, which reportedly allowed Moscow to make submarines quiet enough to avoid United States detection, and the United States congressional debate in 1989 over the Japan-United States agreement to develop a new fighter aircraft—the FSX—for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.

Some innovative approaches emerged in the 1980s as United States companies strove to achieve greater access to Japanese markets. MOSS negotiations in 1985 addressed access problems related to four industries: forest products, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, electronics, and telecommunications equipment and services.

Problems of access to Japanese markets were among the motivations for the United States Trade Act of 1988, which included a provision calling on the president to identify unfair trading partners of the United States and to specify products for negotiation with these countries. In the spring of 1989, Japan was named as an unfair trading partner under this provision and three areas—forest products, telecommunications satellites, and supercomputers—were selected for negotiations. This action exemplified the continuing mood of dissatisfaction over access to Japanese markets at the end of the decade. Nevertheless, Japan and the U.S. settled their disputes to Japan's advantage.

At the same time, the United States initiated broad talks concerning the structural factors inhibiting manufactured imports in Japan, in the Structural Impediments Initiative. These talks addressed such areas as the law restraining the growth of large discount store chains in Japan, weak antitrust law enforcement, land taxation that encouraged inefficient farming, and high real estate prices. Japan was still able to fulfill many of interests that further expanded its economy.

Trade friction notwithstanding, the Japanese have a strong appetite for consumer goods produced in America, though not as strong as that for Japanese consumer goods. Exporting to Japan is challenging, at best, and this has given rise to companies that facilitate exporting consumer goods to Japan. Specialized Companies have carved out niche markets to fill the Japanese demand for American consumer goods.

Frictions in the semiconductor industry sector

By the end of the 1980s, Japanese firms dominated world production and trade in certain segments of the semiconductor industry. In particular, they came to dominate the world market in dynamic random-access memory units (DRAMs). The Japanese share of the world merchant market for 1-megabit DRAMs at the end of the decade, for example, was estimated at 90 percent, while other estimates put the Japanese share of all semiconductor devices at 48 percent. Trade data showed that in 1988 Japan exported more than US$12 billion in semiconductor devices (and vacuum tubes), representing a dramatic increase from US$6 million in 1960 and just over US$2 billion in 1980. Semiconductor imports, however, totaled only US$2.2 billion in 1988.

The rise of Japanese competition and the decline in the world market share held by United States manufacturers, coupled with allegations of unfair trade practices, made semiconductors a contentious issue between the United States and Japan throughout the 1980s. The allegations included charges of dumping in the United States market and of import barriers artificially limiting the market share of United States firms selling in Japan. Negotiations in 1986 produced an agreement that led to an increase in Japanese DRAM export prices and that also included a provision to increase the United States share of the Japanese market (from the 10 percent that prevailed at that time to 20 percent by 1991). United States complaints that Japan failed to carry out the agreement in good faith led to retaliation, the imposition of punitive 100 percent tariffs on US$300 million of Japanese exports to the United States. Evidence that the export prices of DRAMs had risen led to partial elimination of the sanctions, but others remained until compliance was seen in increasing the United States market share in Japan. This entire episode remained very controversial at the end of the decade, particularly the question of specifying an acceptable market share for United States-made products in Japan. Nevertheless, the U.S. hails Japanese technology and Japan had advantage over the U.S. Nevetheless, Japan was still able to manage its price competitiveness in the U.S., and the Japanese market strategy by U.S. manufacturers was not as successful as that by domestic Japanese companies.

Structural Impediments Initiative

A new approach was added in 1989. The so-called Structural Impediments Initiative was a series of talks designed to deal with domestic structural problems limiting trade on both sides. After several rounds of often contentious talks, agreements were reached in April and July 1990 that promised major changes in such sensitive areas as Japanese retailing practices, land use, and investment in public works. The United States pledged to deal more effectively with its budget deficit and to increase domestic savings. United States supporters saw the Structural Impediments Initiative talks as addressing fundamental causes of Japan-United States economic friction. Skeptics pointed to them as ways for officials to buy time and avoid an acute crisis in Japan-United States relations. The Bill Clinton administration decided to end the Structural Impediments Initiative in the summer of 1993 as a framework for dealing with United States-Japan bilateral relations.

Direct Investment

As elsewhere, Japan's direct investment in the United States expanded rapidly and is an important new dimension in the countries' relationship. The total value of cumulative investments of this kind was US$8.7 billion in 1980. By 1990 it had grown to US$83.1 billion. United States data identified Japan as the second largest investor in the United States; it had about half the value of investments of Britain, but more than those of the Netherlands, Canada, or West Germany. Much of Japan's investment in the United States in the late 1980s was in the commercial sector, providing the basis for distribution and sale of Japanese exports to the United States. Wholesale and retail distribution accounted for 32.2 percent of all Japanese investments in the United States in 1990, while manufacturing accounted for 20.6 percent. Real estate became a popular investment during the 1980s, with cumulative investments rising to US$15.2 billion by 1988, or 18.4 percent of total direct investment in the United States.

Military relations

Major US military bases in Japan
The 1952 Mutual Security Assistance Pact provided the initial basis for the nation's security relations with the United States. The pact was replaced in 1960 by the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, which declares that both nations will maintain and develop their capacities to resist armed attack in common and that each recognizes that an armed attack on either one in territories administered by Japan will be considered dangerous to the safety of the other. The Agreed Minutes to the treaty specified that the Japanese government must be consulted prior to major changes in United States force deployment in Japan or to the use of Japanese bases for combat operations other than in defense of Japan itself. However, Japan was relieved by its constitutional prohibition of participating in external military operations from any obligation to defend the United States if it were attacked outside of Japanese territories. In 1990 the Japanese government expressed its intention to continue to rely on the treaty's arrangements to guarantee national security.

The Agreed Minutes under Article 6 of the 1960 treaty contain a status-of-forces agreement on the stationing of United States forces in Japan, with specifics on the provision of facilities and areas for their use and on the administration of Japanese citizens employed in the facilities. Also covered are the limits of the two countries' jurisdictions over crimes committed in Japan by United States military personnel.

The Mutual Security Assistance Pact of 1952 initially involved a military aid program that provided for Japan's acquisition of funds, matériel, and services for the nation's essential defense. Although Japan no longer received any aid from the United States by the 1960s, the agreement continued to serve as the basis for purchase and licensing agreements ensuring interoperability of the two nations' weapons and for the release of classified data to Japan, including both international intelligence reports and classified technical information.

As part of a realignment plan, American jet fighters are to be removed from Japan and if the F-35 program faces further delays there might be no American fighters in Japanese bases like Misawa.

Ryukyu Islands

A major issue for military relations between the two nations was resolved in 1972 when the Ryukyu Islandsmarker, including Okinawamarker, reverted to Japanese control and the provisions of the 1960 security treaty were extended to cover them. The United States retained the right to station forces on these islands. In 1990 about 30,000 United States troops still occupied 20 percent of Okinawa's land, a source of friction with the local population.

Military relations improved after the mid-1970s. In 1960 the Security Consultative Committee, with representatives from both countries, was set up under the 1960 security treaty to discuss and coordinate security matters concerning both nations. In 1976 a subcommittee of that body prepared the Guidelines for Japan-United States Defense Cooperation that were approved by the full committee in 1978 and later approved by the National Defense Council and cabinet. The guidelines authorized unprecedented activities in joint defense planning, response to an armed attack on Japan, and cooperation on situations in Asia and the Pacific region that could affect Japan's security.

Joint exercises

Under the framework of the guidelines, Japan's Joint Staff Council and the commander of United States Forces, Japan, drew up a long-range program for joint exercises to encompass all three services of both nations. Every year during the 1980s, the GSDF conducted command post and field-training exercises involving units from each of the regional armies in combined training with United States forces. Although the MSDF had participated in exercises with the United States Navy since 1955, in 1980 Japan, in an unprecedented move, permitted a task force of ships and aircraft to train in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) comprehensive naval exercise with naval forces from the United States, Australia, Canadamarker, and New Zealandmarker. Japan also participated in RIMPAC '88 with eight destroyers and frigates, one submarine, eight P-3C antisubmarine aircraft, and one supply ship. The ASDF also conducted numerous air defense, fighter, rescue, and command post training exercises with United States Air Force units. The Japan Coast Guard and United States Coast Guard have also performed joint exercises together.

In 1992, more than 50,000 members of the United States Armed Forces were stationed in Japan, including 21,300 marines, 10,300 air force personnel, 5,500 navy personnel, and 2,200 army personnel, who were deployed at several locations on Honshūmarker, Kyūshūmarker, and Okinawa. These numbers represented a substantial decrease from the 1990 level.

Close security ties were considered extremely important to both Japan and the United States. In March 1994, the first "two-plus-two" meeting of the Japanese foreign minister and the Defense Agency director with the United States secretary of state and secretary of defense was held in Tokyo to discuss a coordinated approach to post-Cold War regional and global security problems. Both sides indicated that they fully supported the United States- Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. Further, the United States thanked Japan for its strong host nation support for United States forces stationed in Japan, and the two nations agreed to begin consultations to renew the host nation support agreement when it expires in 1996.

See also


  1. [1]
  2. Asia Times Online
  4. "Perry Ceremony Today; Japanese and U. S. Officials to Mark 100th Anniversary." New York Times. July 14, 1953;
  5. Japan Wants to Change Agreement on Relocating U.S. Marine Base Ahead of Obama’s Upcoming Visit
  6. Gates: 'No Alternatives' to US-Japan Security Accord
  7. U.S. floated plan to withdraw fighter jets

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